Skip to content

Utah district elects Celeste Maloy to succeed Stewart

Growing around federal lands shaped Maloy’s views on limited government

Republican Celeste Maloy won the special election to fill the seat her former boss, Rep. Chris Stewart, gave up in September when he resigned.
Republican Celeste Maloy won the special election to fill the seat her former boss, Rep. Chris Stewart, gave up in September when he resigned. (Handout/Celeste for Utah)

Former House aide Celeste Maloy won a special election Tuesday to serve the remainder of the term of her former boss, Utah Republican Chris Stewart, who resigned in September.

Maloy had 54 percent of the vote to Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe’s 38 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 10:36 p.m. Eastern time with an estimated 58 percent of the votes reported. Five other candidates were also on the ballot.

Maloy spent more than four years as legislative counsel to Stewart, a fiscal conservative and frequent critic of big government. The Utah Republican, who stepped down citing health issues experienced by his wife, Evie Stewart, had encouraged Maloy to run for his seat.

“I told him I didn’t think anyone would vote for me because the work I’ve done has been in his name,” Maloy said in an interview. “He said, ‘I think you’ll be really surprised how people will respond to you when they find out how much you know.’”

With Stewart’s endorsement, she came out on top to clinch the Republican nomination in a September special primary

She entered the final weeks of the campaign with a significant fundraising advantage over Riebe. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Maloy had $120,000 in her account on Nov. 1 to Riebe’s $30,000. Maloy’s most recent report, covering Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, listed more than $129,000 in contributions, including donations from corporate PACs and the campaign committees and leadership PACs of numerous House GOP incumbents.   

Her election marks only the fifth time a woman has represented the state on the federal level and one of the few times a House member has come from the state’s historically underrepresented rural southern region. 

Six kids in a trailer

Maloy was born in Cedar City, Utah, but grew up in the tiny desert town of Hiko, Nev., where she and her five siblings were raised in a single-wide trailer. Maloy’s mother sold Avon cosmetics, and her father was a volunteer firefighter. 

“I grew up in a county that’s mostly public lands,” she said, explaining that most people in her community felt that the federal government had too much control over the land on which they relied. The sentiment drove her to eventually specialize in land and water policy.

She earned a degree in soil science from Southern Utah University and spent more than a decade as a soil conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

After graduating from Brigham Young University with her law degree, she went to work on land and water policy in Washington County. That put her in frequent contact with Stewart’s office, and she eventually went to work for him.

Like Stewart, Maloy’s overarching goal is placing a legislative check on the federal government.

“I got into all of this because I was frustrated that the federal government is just way too involved in people’s day-to-day lives,” Maloy said in an interview.

‘Don’t really love politics’

Utah’s 2nd District sprawls over hundreds of miles, from a portion of the urban, mountainous capital of Salt Lake City to the rural home of the nation’s third-most popular national park, Zion National Park. 

During the campaign, Maloy overcame a lawsuit challenging her eligibility to run because she didn’t have an active Utah voter registration as a Republican when she filed. Her last registered address in Utah was in 2018, before she came to Capitol Hill. But a federal judge ruled in July that Maloy could stay on the ballot.

Before Stewart’s resignation, Maloy hadn’t thought much about running for public office herself.

“I like policy work. I don’t really love politics that much,” she said. “But I do politics because I want to be able to change policy.”

Recent Stories

At the Races: Run the World (Older Women)

As younger members of Congress leave, veteran members are trying to get back in

Technology Can Be the Real Game Changer in Corrections

Democrats ask insurers to meet contraceptive coverage mandate

Greatest Generation Coin will help preserve World War II Memorial for future generations

Lawmakers press to avoid funding pitfall for public defenders